Sacred Heart Parish, New Britain, CT.
My wife and I visited New Britain CT. in the late 90’s. I read a book a couple years before by Daniel Buczek - Immigrant pastor:The life of the Right Reverend Monsignor Lucyan Bojnowski of New Britain, Connecticut and I wanted to see a what this pastor had accomplished. As we walked the school grounds of Sacred Heart we came upon Sr. Alma Sakowicz, Dir. Of Religious Education at Sacred Heart School, who gave us a tour of Sacred Heart church, both the lower and upper levels. We visited the cemetery that overlooks the city as well as the orphanage and convent.
The Staropolska restaurant was our final stop for lunch before we left for home.
It has been my goal since I retired to learn as much as I could about America’s Polonia and thanks to the Internet I have been able do my research and share it with you. This is just one small contribution of mine to Polonia. The one that I am most proud of is the history of my Polish Parish, St. Joseph’s of Camden, NJ.
The Sacred Heart church is the oldest Polish American parish in New England, established in 1894. It was an ethnic parish lead by a very powerful Monsignor Lucyan Bojnowski who was a very influential figure not only with parishioners’ lives but influenced the entire town.
In 1895 Monsignor Bojinowski felt the need to care for children who were orphaned in an epidemic and founded the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception to care for them in an orphanage built in 1904. The Motherhouse of this order continued to grow in 1937 and then again from 1945 to 1961, making room for a high school for girls. It grew again in 1962 as the order’s numbers increased. Over the years, though, the number of Sisters decreased and the large facility was no longer fully used. In 2001, the nuns decided to look for ways that the facility could live out their mission and benefit the community. Sister Mary Mark led the effort to investigate various uses for it. After consulting with the secular and religious community, the nuns determined that the community’s most pressing needs were low-cost housing and child day care. The idea of Marian Heights was born.
When they cut the ribbon on the new Marian Heights Senior Housing and Day Care center on October 15, 2010 it was a culmination of a dream over 10 years in the making for the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception (DMIC). They officially saw their 1937 convent reborn as a low-income senior housing and day-care facility because of their selfless devotion to the community.
The “Immigrant Pastor’s” many accomplishments can be summed up with the following words taken from an article in the local paper
“The Hartford skyline stands at the edge of the view from the sister's sitting room on the fourth floor of St. Lucian's Home for the Aged. Closer to home on Osgood Hill, the sisters can see the imposing structure of the former Polish orphanage, the grounds of the Polish cemetery, the Monsignor Bojnowski Manor nursing home and, in the winter when the foliage is sparse, the motherhouse (Marian Heights)of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary of the Immaculate Conception.”
``Our founder had a vision,'' said Sister Mary Gloriosa, one of the three Daughters of Mary who live and work at St. Lucian's. ``He certainly had a vision.''
Between 1865 - 1920, immigration trends shifted from Western Europe (Great Britain, Germany, Netherlands) to Southern and Eastern Europe (Italy, Poland, the Balkan states). This trend alarmed the mainly Protestant “old immigrants,” who felt threatened by the mainly Catholic “new immigrants.” Nativist organizations successfully pressured the United States government to enact laws to curb what they saw as a demoralizing and worsening situation for the country. Such efforts culminated in the passage of the National Origins Act in 1924.
Due to the passage of the act today's Polonia is not the same as that of our grandparents who came to New Britain seeking a better life over a century ago. The ties, which bound the traditional old neighborhood together, have somewhat unraveled, but the community has adapted and changed. We are strong. We will survive.